Five Ways to Help Manage Your Finances After a Job Loss
Staying afloat after a layoff or during a furlough can be difficult. Here are five steps you can take right now to help.
Have you recently lost your job or a steady stream of income? If so, you’re not alone. Every year, even without a global pandemic, millions of Americans lose their jobs or have a loss of income, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics†.
Yet dealing with paying bills, taking care of your family, and buying everyday necessities can be stressful when you’re not sure where your next paycheck will come from, especially if you’re not able to work.
Here are five steps you can take right now to help you stay afloat.
1. File for—and be sure you understand—unemployment benefits.
If you’ve lost your job recently, it’s important to check if you’re eligible for unemployment benefits.
“Jump right on that,” advises Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, who notes that in some states eligibility for payments may start the day you apply for unemployment, not the day you became unemployed‡.
When filing a claim, you’ll be asked for contact information for your employer, as well as the dates of your employment. To ensure that your claim is processed in a timely fashion, be sure to give complete and accurate information. Be aware that it can take a couple of weeks before you receive your first benefit check§.
2. Talk with your mortgage lender or landlord.
If you’re not able to pay your mortgage or rent, reach out to your mortgage lender or landlord to see what your options are. To avoid unhappy surprises down the road, be sure to ask what the repayment terms will be and whether late fees will be waived.
3. Call your creditors.
"Explain that you’ve recently experienced a job loss and that you need some flexibility, in the form of more time to pay, for example," says Kimberly Palmer, NerdWallet’s personal finance expert¶.
“Many companies are willing to work with customers facing financial hardships and have programs in place to help, but you usually have to call and ask for help in order to receive it.”
4. Reduce your expenses.
“This is a good time to review your budget for categories where you can cut back,” says Palmer, who suggests scrutinizing monthly expenses such as entertainment subscriptions and impulse spending for places to trim.
Huntington’s Spend Analysis tool can help you review your spending to see where your money is going and identify places to cut back. Even small adjustments, such as negotiating a less pricey cell phone plan or a better deal on your homeowner insurance, can add up.
After you’ve made adjustments to your budget, use Huntington’s digital tool, Spend SetterSM, to help manage spending categories and avoid exceeding your new budget.
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5. Look for liquidity—or side income.
There are no guarantees in life, and an unexpected job or income loss can happen at any time, so it’s important to evaluate your options in cases where you find that it’s difficult to make ends meet.
It may be tempting to tap into money set aside in a retirement plan to cover expenses, but even if you can do so without incurring a penalty, you’ll be robbing yourself of potential financial security down the road, notes Evermore.
“The retirement savings crisis is real, so you should try to safeguard those savings for the future if at all possible.”
A better bet? Explore ways to bring in extra cash, such as unloading all of your garage and attic clutter on eBay or picking up work on the side. Just be mindful of state laws about earning income while collecting unemployment.
“In some states, you can still receive partial benefits provided that your earnings are less than your benefit payout,” says Evermore. “But the policies vary by state, so it’s a good idea to check.”
† U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS Reports, Accessed May 2020. https://www.bls.gov/mls/mlsreport1043.pdf
‡ Michele Evermore, Interview, April 2020.
§ Careeronestop.org, “Here's how to get started applying for unemployment benefits in your state,” Accessed April 2020. https://www.careeronestop.org/WorkerReEmployment/UnemploymentBenefits/how-do-i-apply.aspx
¶Kimberly Palmer, Interview, April 2020.
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